Ensinar a Programar

By | 21st Century Skills, American Spaces, Sem categoria | No Comments

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Barack Obama e Bill Gates alertam: “aprendam a programar”! Google, Apple, Microsoft e Amazon apoiam a campanha Hour of Code que motiva alunos de todas as idades dos Estados Unidos a começar a programar.  A iniciativa, liderada pela organização sem fins lucrativos Code.org, estimula professores ou mesmo os próprios estudantes a usarem tutoriais de apenas uma hora para se iniciarem na programação. O slogan diz: “qualquer um pode programar”.

Aprender a programar não é só importante para o seu futuro, é importante para o futuro do país. É por isso que estou pedindo que você se envolva. Não apenas jogue um novo videogame. Faça um. Não apenas baixe o aplicativo mais novo. Ajude a criar um. Não apenas jogue no seu celular. Programe o jogo Barack Obama.

O aprendizado da programação tem efeitos multidisciplinares e melhora a capacidade de resolver problemas e lidar com desafios. Essas habilidades são importantes para a vida como um todo.

Mitch Resnick, criador do Scratch, um projeto do Media Lab, do MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), ensina alunos a partir dos 5 anos a dar os primeiros passos em programação. Compara-se a importância de aprender a programar com a de aprender a ler. Durante o TEDx Beacon Street no ano passado, Mitch falou que, ao aprender a ler, pode-se então ler para aprender e, ao aprender a escrever códigos, pode-se escrever códigos para aprender. Em um artigo publicado no EdSurge, completou: “Vejo a codificação (programação de computadores) como uma extensão da escrita. A capacidade de codificar permite “escrever” novos tipos de coisas como histórias interativas, jogos, animações e simulações”. Pessoas passam de consumidoras de conteúdo digital para produtoras e desenvolvem varias competências digitais e cognitivas no processo.

Nos Estados Unidos, escolas públicas atendem ao pedido do presidente e incentivam o acesso a programação. No Brasil, já se fala da  necessidade de disseminar a cultura da programação e existem muitas iniciativas. Para começar, não se precisa de muito. Alguns sites e apps, uma comunidade de pessoas que queiram aprender juntas dentro ou fora do ambiente escolar e determinação são os ingredientes necessários para codificar. Caso precise de ideias e materiais para programar com amigos e filhos, ou mesmo começar aulas na sua escola, visite o nosso site. http://englishhub.pbworks.com/w/page/94438010/Getting%20Started_Coding



Earth Day – Maker Activities

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This semester as we started a new group of English Access
Microscholarship Program students we decided to add a maker twist to our
regular enhancement activities. It was close to Earth Day, which is celebrated
on the 22nd of April. Therefore, the idea we had was to raise
environmental awareness and explore recycling as a gesture of kindness to our
mother planet. To prepare for the activity we asked students to bring
recyclable material from their homes and some of us, teachers, also brought
things to guarantee we would have plenty and varied raw material to work
On the day of the activity, Friday April 17th, we
first showed our groups a power point presentation that gave them some
information on the impact humans have on the environment. Besides that, they
also saw a short movie (from Uzoo) about some endangered species. Both the movie and the
power point presentation was followed by comprehension activities. Next, we
talked about recycling and
displayed pictures of some objects that had been
made with recyclable material. Finally, students were taken to a large room in
which we prepared a big table that had  glue, scissors, and other materials we
believed students might need to craft their recycled objects.
They were really
excited when they got there and saw the challenge lying ahead. They immediately
grabbed things and started working.  Some
of them worked in groups of four or three, there were duos, and some others
went solo. No matter how they paired up, they always exchanged ideas and shared

The outcome was a variety of useful concoctions ranging from
pencil holders, to toys, to plastic

airplanes. Students learned lots about
recycling and also that they can create things using thing that we many times
we throw in the trash and nature takes
years to decompose.

Webinar on Creating Stories with littleBits

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Information is everywhere, and it just could not be different when comes to makersapaces. To learn  about how Littlebits support learning, I attended a webinar on Creating Stories with littleBits with Kylie Peppler, Brian Pichman, and Allison Vannatta. I highly recommend it if you are trying to understand what pieces of technology to offer people to engage them in creative learning processes. Brian Pichman highlighted why libraries need to evolve and foster collaboration, innovation, and interaction. It`s a must watch to ensure our makerspaces are democratic and help people develop powerful learning skills.

Some tips were very useful

  • Use bright colors
  • Have cool pieces of furniture
  • Encourage your patros to move the furniture to fit their needs
  • Have furniture on wheels
  • Let people see the covers of the books
  • Have standing self help
  • Have cool equipment – Sphero; Littlebits;
  • Design challenges with 3D printers and robotics
  • Promote design challenges
  • Encourage open ended making



Earth Day in the Making

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Resource Centers in American Spaces are places to engage, surprise, and wow audiences. Not surprisingly, our dynamic learning spaces offer students and community exciting ways to celebrate  Earth Day, the annual U.S. celebration of the environment. We planned activities that motivate students to move away  from consumption and  take action against the threats that our planet faces nowadays.


Making Makers in the Language Classroom

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More and more schools are investing in mobile devices or motivating learners to bring their own devices, for digital making engages students and gives them the chance of using technology for pedagogical aims. An activity that integrates the physical with the virtual would be asking students to create QR codes aimed at providing more web-based information about something physical. For example, a teacher might ask students to make a QR code and place it next to an object or picture. When scanned by a smartphone, the code would trigger a link to a YouTube video of the student telling a story or to a website with additional information about the place.

What we’ve noticed with this strong move toward technology is a countermovement to reground student learning and engage hands and bodies as well as minds. The maker movement advocates for making things and designing things, and the ideas behind the movement resonate well with many educators who believe in hands-on learning. However, all the possibilities could sound interesting for extra-curricular programs and be easily dismissed for Foreign Language classrooms environment.

Teachers  are usually worried about schedules and all the content they need to teach, so it’s always a bless to see the work of educators who take their time to plan activities in which students are given the luxury of time to make something together. Teacher Selma Bilbato got creative and gave a twist to her lesson about locations and directions. From there to integrating the physical with the virtual all it takes is a simple step. Imagine taking pictures of the map for a game with tinytap, for example. 100% student-centered activities that signal if the teacher is ready to engage students bodies and brains.





Squishy Circuits for Saint Patrick’s Day

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11059314_831806730224333_4144038991195232492_nIn a demo at TED U, AnnMarie Thomas shows how two different kinds of homemade play dough can be used to demonstrate electrical properties by lighting up LEDs and spinning motors. The goal of the project is to design tools and activities which allow kids of all ages to create circuits and explore electronics using play dough.

There are some interesting ways to explore these circuits in  Resource Centers or school makerspaces. First, you can just display the LEDs, batteries and play dough so that people can experiment on their own. A good tutorial on the table could help people get started. Another option is running sessions  to build a maker mindset and foster a maker culture at the institution. Sessions could be theme based to contextualize a special date or event. Last week, we celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day by showing a video about the celebration, playing celtic music, and inviting participants to make their own electric shamrocks. Try out squishy circuits because they are good tools to help librarians  get started and enrich the users` experience at Resource Centers and libraries.


Por onde começar um ‘makerspace’

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Por vezes a curiosidade abre novos


O movimento do fazer e a filosofia Maker dá aos educadores a chance de fomentar em jovens e crianças o prazer pela descoberta. Crianças de uma forma geral têm a predisposição de colocar a mão na massa, mas precisam muitas vezes da ambiência e de ferramentas para explorar seu potencial. A Casa Thomas Jefferson, junto à Embaixada dos Estados Unidos e ao Instituto Smithsonian, reorganiza as bibliotecas e as transforma em espaços colaborativos e dinâmicos de aprendizado.  Compartilhamos aqui algumas dicas para pessoas ou instituições que pretendam criar ambiências onde jovens brasileiros possam explorar atividades extracurriculares que estimulam a criatividade e os garantem a possibilidade de vivenciar na pratica assuntos que, em métodos mais tradicionais de ensino, somente veriam na teoria.

Comece pelo começo

Não importa o que você tem – muito ou pouco. O que importa é que você mergulhe e comece a criar. Se você tem ferramentas, coloque-as à disposição dos alunos para trabalhar e construir algo; faça alguma coisa com o que você tem ao alcance das mãos. Sessões de ‘Free making’ podem ser muito interessantes para os alunos. Quantos dos nossos jovens já tiveram a oportunidade de abrir um brinquedo quebrado e construir algo? Ou quantos já se envolveram em uma construção coletiva? A hora é agora!

 Comece pequeno

É tentador querer fazer tudo de uma vez, sair comprando circuitos, motores, impressora 3D, etc., mas todo esse equipamento pode sobrecarregar os participantes e frear o entusiasmo. Começar pequeno permite iniciar mais rápido, errar e aprender com os erros. A falha é necessária para a construção de um espaço colaborativo. Projetos mão na massa são muito divertidos, mas os alunos enfrentarão dificuldades que podem desencorajar alguns. Incentive-os a perseverar. Ensine-os a interagir, corrigir erros e começar de novo. Os alunos devem aprender a aceitar o fracasso como parte do processo.

Construa para si mesmo

Deixem os alunos construírem dispositivos, jogos e projetos para próprio uso. Dê aos alunos a oportunidade de criar ou reinventar as coisas e se tornarem consumidores mais conscientes.Incentive seus alunos a sair de suas zonas de conforto, sujar as mãos e vivenciar a criação do divertimento. Os alunos geralmente adoram saber fazer coisas e criar jogos ao invés de baixá-los da internet. Toda essa experiência pode abrir as portas da criatividade.

The Maker Movement and English Language Teaching

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The Maker movement has inspired teachers to explore interesting new tools and materials like robots, 3D printing, e-textiles, etc.  However, its focus on digital fabrication, hands-on craftsmanship, and programming seem perfect for STEAM, and not feasible for English Language Teaching.  ELT teachers wonder how they can integrate STEAM principles into their teaching reality and why they should do that.

Making something of value is thrilling and exciting, and maker activities in English schools can build problem solving skills, promote opportunities for meaningful exchange of information, and genuinely motivate students to use the target language to convey meaning. English language teachers have always used hands-on activities, but now we might do it interdisciplinary and focus on tasks that motivate learners to take the role of producers of shareable content and learning artifacts.

Last week, I co-presented a mini-course called Make it in the Classroom, and I asked Paola Hanna, a teacher at Casa Thomas Jefferson, to share some of her insights with the audience. She had a verb tense spinning wheel, and she used it as a model for students to make a learning artifact to learn collocations. Watch the following video for an overview of what happened and hear what Paola’s take on this task is.

How to Make your First Electric Car

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When I asked a student what he thought about making his own car, he told me that what he enjoyed the most was showig  everyone “the process he went through [and] the work he put into it.…”

This kid for sure has many nice toys at home, but it is simply fun when you make something you’re really proud of and other people are interested in it and give you compliments. 

Ideally, you provide the materials and let students tinker and design their own prototypes so that they experience what exploring and making is all about.

If you are a language teacher, you could use this activity to teach superlative and comparative forms of adjectives. Students could create their cars and have a race to practice language. Alternatively, you could start making the car and having a race; Students will probably need to use comparative and superlative forms, and they might start using it (with teachers help) before being formally exposed to it.

What you’ll need


How to make it

How to Make Your First Wearable Circuit

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1235950_10155029437205107_6780974537386070107_n     Making simple wearable circuits is usually a big hit in makerspaces. This simple project might entice young makers and empower them to set creativity free and experiment with different materials. You could ask  children to make masks, monsters, hats, stuffed animals, or let them play freely. 241125_764018243669849_5141205968619777668_o If you are a language teacher, you could carry out one of the following tasks:

  • Ask students to create characters for  storytelling.
  • Have students make their own monsters to practice describing features.
  • Have students create a product and advertize it using modal verbs.

Here is what you will  need for this project. 10264036_774295072642166_1059743152918155543_o

How to Make an Electric Insect

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photo 2

The idea of making your own circuit is very empowering. There is something magical about being able to make something for the first time, and people who engage in these kind of activites learn much more than circuitry; They learn that they can actually sit down and try to understand how things around us work.

This is a simple maker project that you can offer in your makerspace to reach different learning goals. In a language class, a teacher might propose this task as aprompt for a writing activity, teach narratives, or build a sense of community, for people will need to interact to succeed.

What you will  need:


Tools; hot glue,soldering iron and solder



Display all the materials on the table and ask participants to tinker. Do not show them how to do it, but ask questions to trigger thinging.

How to Make a Doodler

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When Glauco Paiva told us to build a doodler, I had no idea where to start. I could see all the materials on the table and some people seemed to know what they were doing. Feeling a little lost at first, I decided to get my hands dirty and started my project. So, every time someone celebrated an accomplishment, I went there and tried to learn from it. Slowly, my own doodler got ready and I could also celebrate and see first-hand how rewarding it is to learn collaboratively. I felt the thrill and excitement of making something functional, and students who experience this feeling might be more involved and attentive. My take on this activity is that there is something very exciting about making something from scratch, and hands-on learning followed by reflective practice might boost and deepen learning. If you are a language teacher just like me, you might be wondering how to use such an activity in your language school or lesson. Here are some suggestions:

What you need

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  • Ask students to write a narrative using past tenses or a sequence paragraph.
  • Teach conditionals.
  • Practice reported speech by reporting the interaction among people during the activity.



Bibliotecarias do seculo 21

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Sexta passada Carla Arena, Fabricio Freire e eu falamos  para as bibliotecárias da casa Thomas Jefferson sobre três principais assuntos que dizem respeito a como transformar ao nossas bibliotecas em espaços dinâmicos de aprendizado. Começamos com a nossa diretora, Lucia santos, sobre a importância de ter novos espaços de aprendizado na nossa instituição. Em seguida, Aida Carvalho contextualizou as mudanças que bibliotecas sofreram através do tempo. Ela falou sobre o que é esperado de uma biblioteca moderna e nos mostrou um TED Talk muito interessante sobre este tema.


Eu comecei falando um pouco sobre o movimento do fazer e sem demora passamos para a parte pratica. Participantes aprenderam juntos a fazer um circuito de LED e iluminaram um cartão natalino. A experiência foi muito poderosa, pois todos vivenciaram como é importante trabalhar junto e vencer obstáculos em grupo. Na segunda parte da minha fala falei um pouco sobre a importância de oferecer espaços de aprendizado onde a comunidade pode participar da escolha de atividades. Falamos das diversas atividades oferecidas nos Makerspaces mundo afora. Para encerrar, fizemos uma sessão de ‘Design Thinking’ e todos pensaram em propostas de atividades para o próximo ano.

Carla Arena falou sobre agregadores de conteúdo e de como os espaços de aprendizado devem ser espaços que incentivam e surpreendem; Fabricio encerrou o dia com conceitos de design seguido de parte pratica onde as pessoas fizeram convites usando o aplicativo Phoster para melhoras a comunicação visual da biblioteca. Se você se interessa pelos tópicos e deseja aprender mais, siga o site e entre em contato conosco.

How to Make a LED Powered Card

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The idea of making your own circuit is very empowering. There is something magical about being able to make something for the first time, and people who engage in these kind of activites learn much more than circuitry. They learn that they can actually sit down and try to understand how things around us work.

This is a simple maker project that you can offer in your makerspace to reach different learning goals. In a language class, a teacher might propose this task as a follow up for a writing activity, teach narratives, or build a sense of community, for people will need to interact to succeed.

What you will  need:


Procedure :

Show a card and go over the process briefly. Make sure you tell participants that they will NOT follow instructions because the idea is to make and learn with their peers. Let students tinker and help each other. If someone gets stuck you might ask questions like:Look at this card. Where does the power come from? Which side is the negative?



Be a Maker Kid

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With his right hand, my 11-year-old son presses the red-hot soldering iron against the tiny motor. With his left hand, he guides a thin, tin wire until it’s pressing against both the motor and the tip of the iron.

As tin begins to melt, there is some smoke, and a metallic smell drifts back to where I am standing behind him and all the other kids in the room. I have to confess that I get a bit nervous, but I am at ease because I can feel the thrill students get from the act of making something.

These children live in a world in which the objects around us are complex. We have gadgets in our pockets, but we do not have a clue about how they work. Kids buy toys and toss them aside when they break. And, not many parents encourage tinkering and opening things up. To help students slow down and lead them to a very different way of thinking about the world, we decided to run a toy making workshop and started a campaign called Be a Maker Kid  at Casa Thomas Jefferson this year.

The workshop is part of a much larger phenomenon called the Maker Movement. The Maker Movement has grown into a global community of tinkerers, programmers and designers joined by the simple satisfaction they get from making stuff and sharing what they create. The goal is to teach kids a wide range of digital and analog skills: computer programming, 3-D printing, and sewing and drawing.

Beyond the skills they learn, kids learn an important lesson: that the act of creating something can be incredibly educational and deeply gratifying in a way that buying something off the shelf never will be.

We are committed to sharing everything we learn about the maker movement, so if you are interested in running a similar workshop in your institution. read the tips below.

Advertise the event in your social media and around school with interesting posters.

Give a ticket to each student who donates a broken toy.

Send an invitation

Choose a project your students might enjoy (see some examples below)

Electric car – Electric insect – Doodler – LED powered card

Involve school staff for the tinkering part

Have lots of fun, and record your students’ suggestions and what they learned with the activity.

Todo mundo pode ser um fazedor

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Dizem que professores estão preparando alunos para trabalhos que ainda não existem. Muitos falam que professores devem ajudar alunos a serem responsáveis pelo próprio aprendizado e desenvolverem o pensamento lógico para resolver problemas que enfrentarão no futuro. Mas escolas mundo afora continuam usando didática bastante tradicional onde o professor tem papel central na atividade ensinar e deve expor e interpretar o conteúdo. Ao o aluno cabe o papel de ouvir e cumprir os exercícios repetitivos, pois assim poderão gravar a matéria e depois reproduzir-la  em questionamentos feito pelo professor ou em provas.

Educadores que acreditam que alunos devam ser estimulados a pensar e se comunicar tem o movimento do fazer como aliado  em escolas mundo afora. O Movimento Maker na educação abre espaço para a experimentação e coloca o aluno na frente do seu processo de aprendizagem. Pesquisadores como Vygovysky e Piaget já falaram da necessidade de aprender colaborativamente e da Zona de desenvolvimento proximal.

O movimento do fazer, bastante difundido nos Estados Unidos, começa a ser discutido no Brasil. A Embaixada dos Estados Unidos convidou Glauco Paiva para  inspirar professores a buscar soluções para uma pratica educacional prioritariamente conteudista.  Ele nos contou da sua experiência com crianças quando aprendem juntos conceitos, que em métodos mais tradicionais, somente aprenderiam em teoria.  Nós professores montamos circuitos, criamos brinquedos movidos a bateria e deixamos  a criatividade fluir. Nos colocamos no papel do aluno e conversamos sobre o quanto mais interessantes as aulas podem ser se acrescentarmos um componente de experimentação. Abaixo estão os links para algumas das atividades propostas que podem ser exploradas em salas de  aula de diversas matérias para diversos conteúdos.

Carrinho automático

Insectoide criativo

Circuitos para vestir

Canetas robóticas



From Plastic Straws to Spider to a Bandstand with a Swing: Making and Letting Imagination Go Wild

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10801951_762669793804694_3629100874132611237_nRead what our guest blogger Jose Antonio da Silva has to say about his experience with the Maker Movement.In a recent plenary for a Braz-TESOL local chapter event, Gisele Santos told us that we teachers were all makers. She was right: we really are. We are always planning lessons and creating materials for our classes. Our students, however, are in many occasions very passive participants in the learning process. We do try to get them involved, but we approach content with abstractions that require them to think without necessarily involving one of the most powerful tools they have: their hands. Having that in perspective, maybe we should rethink what we do in class and try to design activities that make use of brain/hand coordination more often and use the required language as a tool to accomplish making tasks.

One specific event was what made me ponder about the role of making in a language class and what it entails as a pedagogical practice. Just last week, I had the privilege of being a member of a group of educators   invited to a makers’ workshop with Glauco Paiva. This event was sponsored by the American Embassy and had teachers from several institutions. My invitation was a maker kit: a brown bag with a package of white plastic straws and connecting pieces. The task was to create an object and send a picture to the organizers when I was done. In the beginning, I was a bit paralyzed but it did not take long for the child/maker in me to awake. A little clumsily, I started fiddling with the pieces and in my mind there were lots of possibilities: a Gaudi style cathedral, our national congress building, and so on.


Once the enthusiasm and the deluge of ideas receded, I had to deal with the constraints presented by the task, my limited designing skills, and the material I had in front of me. One may say constraints are a drawback, but on the contrary, they are the springboard of ingenuity. Limitations help bring to life the engineer in each one of us. Therefore, asking our students to make something with limited resources challenges their creativity and inspires them to strive for innovative solutions. So, as I played around with my maker kit, I first came up with spider. As my imagination ran wild, I saw how that spider was a metaphor for how this tinkering with my hands had taken over my digital life. I decided to capture that insight (see picture below). Some of my limitations did not allow me to snatch the full scope of this spider crawling over my laptop. I felt like a child and imagining myself telling this story about a spider. That is what making does, it starts with our hands and brain working together, but then it triggers other creative processes that are so important for learners young or old.


After examining my crawler for a while, I decided it was not good enough and said to myself that I could make something else: a bandstand. I dismantled the spider, got some scissors and cut every straw in two halves, put pieces together and got my bandstand with a swing in the center and little boy swinging. I was a bit disappointed because my boy would not stand upright, but it was clear to me what it was. At that moment I realized I could tell a whole story about that place, that character in the swing and the whole city around it. So, it was making with storytelling.


I know my designing skills are poor and the final product is crude. However, I also know that when it comes to making is the reflection that takes place afterwards that matters. Therefore, after playing I thought about what such an activity  could to my students. Giving them an opportunity for using their hands to create something might prove to be a golden opportunity to exercise their minds, hands, and hearts. I could visualize the kind of language they could use while putting pieces together (conditionals, imperatives) and I could also see the stories they would tell about their final product. It would probably be an endless story because they would keep improving design, process, and the final product in their minds.

Maker Meets Teachers

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64785_10155029437135107_5618383285029338160_n 10394035_10155029437075107_6397536565619454564_n 10408715_10155029437560107_1469049549322442522_nI feel very sad when I notice that my children are becoming avid consumers of everything made in China. I believe children should be curious about what is inside the devices we use, how the house appliances around us work, and think about the environment.

I am very excited about the Maker Movement. The more I look into it, the more I believe that it’s very important to our future. It has the potential to turn more and more people into makers instead of just consumers.

So what is the Maker Movement?

The maker movement is the umbrella term for independent inventors, designers and tinkerers. The creations stir the imagination of consumers that are often tired of generic, mass-produced products. The making is as much fun as the playing, and imagination, when triggered, can lead to more tinkering, and more inventions.

Last week, The US Embassy brought to Brasilia Glauco Paiva, a maker who loves democratizing maker kits, ideas and concepts. He started talking to a group of teachers from Casa Thomas Jefferson, Colégio Militar, and Centro de Ensino Ceilândia 26 at the IRC, and in no time turned the library into a dynamic learning space. We started by talking about pedagogy, hands on learning, and listening to Glauco tell us how easy it is to understand the concept of Zone of Proximal Development when you offer students an activity that involves making and learning at the same time.

10801951_762669793804694_3629100874132611237_n dani 1410716_762669803804693_1165750205381141658_o 10688441_762669810471359_1969195180220642612_o

As I walked into the room and looked at the groups working, I realized that teachers in Brazil might feel encouraged to use these kind of activities in schools to motivate students to create products instead of only consuming them.  Moving people from being consumers only to creators is critical to our future.


Christmas in the Making

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Building a maker mindset in schools motivates people to become makers, give it a try and take things apart to try to do things that even the manufacturer did not think of doing. While technology has been the spark of the Maker Movement, it has also become a social movement that includes all kinds of making and all kinds of makers, connecting to the past as well as changing how we look at the future. Teachers who embrace the movement witness how students learn from others, what zone of development is in practice, and how important it is to foster collaboration and creativity.

Read below about making in class from a teacher`s perspective.

SONY DSCHelena Galvão -It´s the end of the semester, and we begin to say good-bye to our groups. At Casa Thomas Jefferson, we have the opportunity of having our Kids groups for a whole year; we get to watch our students’ development closely, which makes us (teachers and students) eager to show their families how far we have come. For that reason, at CTJ, we throw an end-of-term party on the last day of class. We prepare for weeks, we practice songs, we make a portfolio, and we tidy our classroom to get ready to showcase our English skills. After singing songs and showing pictures, there is usually a lot of time left and, as a teacher, we like to enjoy that precious time to involve family members and students in a meaningful activity to wrap-up the semester.

Having that objective in mind, we came up with an idea for an arts and crafts activity: making a snow globe, but we didn’t want to simply give instructions to be followed. Having a maker mindset to guide us, we thought of giving family members and students a set of different materials (paper, popsicle sticks, sequins, glue, glitter-glue, cotton, ribbons, etc.) for them to decide how to make their own original Christmas tree. Of course we didn’t leave them in the dark, we gave them a whole sort of visual references to spice up their creativity. There was a catch though; they had to construct a tree that would fit inside a glass globe. At this point, we didn’t explain why the tree had to fit the globe, but they soon started to realize what they were about to make.

The kids approached the tables with the materials shyly, whereas their family members didn´t approach them at all. We had to invite family members to join the kids who were, at this point, sorting through the big amount of options they had. Some had an idea and followed through with it; some had to tweak their ideas in order to make them work; some had to start again, for their first idea hadn’t worked out; some had to make the tree smaller; but all of the teams were able to accomplish the task.

It came as no surprise that the teams managed to give up their reluctance and shyness and finish their trees; the biggest surprise was that the teams started blending and helping each other. It started because of two little kids who didn’t have any family members around, and it went on because a mother had a baby on her lap and someone needed to help her kid. Fact is, I turned around to close the first snow globe and when I turned back I saw about twenty people working together and sharing.

In order to accomplish what I had hoped for in this end-of-term party, I had to plan in advance carefully, but the best part of the party was definitely the unexpected outcome of challenging people: the community feeling that makes them share. Well, if that is not Christmas spirit, I don’t know what is.


Crianças em dias de chuva

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Nada é mais apreciado pelos pequenos do que os pais sentados envolvidos em um projeto mão na massa. Sempre que sento com a minha menina percebo o seu potencial criativo e que ela acredita que o que se imagina pode ser construído. Dias de chuva são um convite para atividades em família que envolvem todos, estimulam a criatividade e tiram o foco do consumismo. Veja abaixo algumas coisas que podemos fazer com material reciclado que certamente deixarão os pequenos engajados enquanto a chuva cai lá fora.

Crie brinquedos com caixas de papelão 

Contando historias com pedrinhas

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Crie brinquedos

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 Crie presentes com lâmpadas queimadas

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Quem são os fazedores?

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2014-09-19 12.41.34

O movimento do fazer ganha mais e mais espaço em escolas, bibliotecas e museus em todo o mundo. Ele representa um resgate a experimentação na educação e a construção de aprendizado coletivo. Pais e educadores  podem ajudar a formar ‘makers’, pessoas que se percebem como capazes de fazer, criar, transformar. Mas o que são os fazedores? No que eles acreditam?

Fazedores acreditam que podem dar novo propósito a objetos que nos cercam.

Acreditam que se podem imaginar algo, podem faze-lo.

Nao se veem como meros consumidor

Gostam de concertar, remendar, criar, e entender como as coisas acontecem.

São curiosos e gostam de aprender coisas novas.

Encantam os outros pela sua engenhosidade

Fazedores são generosos e celebram as criações de outros fazedores.

São proativos e criativos.

A lista remete a um perfil nao só necessário mais fundamental para alunos que estão sendo educados hoje para enfrentar um mercado de trabalho diferente do que temos hoje em dia. O movimento do fazer em escolas forma alunos mais preparados para enfrentar os desafios futuros, mas como criar um espaço do fazer? Fazedores são generosos, e disponibilizam todo o percurso do aprendizado. visite abaixo alguns links interessantes para aprender como montar o seu espaço.

Makerspace Playbook






Brown Bag Challenge – Rocket Cars

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rocket cars

As libraries around the world become more dynamic learning spaces, our classrooms and resource centers must offer participants opportunities to engage in collaborative, hands-on, interdisciplinary activities. To create new learning spaces you could make the bags and display them on a shelf for people to tinker with, use them for classroom activities, or create events in your institution to build a maker mindset.


Rocket Cars

In this challenge students get the materials on the label and race against time to finish the task in twenty minutes or less. To promote more practice and engagement, you could ask them to record tutorials or do a show and tell.


Brown Bag Challenge – Windmill

By | Sala de Aula, Sem categoria | No Comments


As libraries around the world become more dynamic learning spaces, our classrooms and resource centers must offer participants opportunities to engage in collaborative, hands-on, interdisciplinary activities. To create new learning spaces you could make the bags and display them on a shelf for people to tinker with, use them for classroom activities, or create events in your institution to build a maker mindset.



In this challenge students get the materials on the label and race against time to finish the task in twenty minutes or less. To promote more practice and engagement, you could ask them to record tutorials or do a show and tell.


It works!!!!!


STEM Engineering Challenges for English Schools

By | Sala de Aula, Sem categoria | No Comments


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We have been adapting STEM Engineering Challenges for our English school, for nothing feels quite so exciting in any learning space as the productive buzz when students are passionately tackling a challenge. This sort of hands-on, mind-on learning promotes critical thinking, real world problem solving, and addresses a host of STEM content, which makes language production authentic and collaborative.

Planning a lesson with the Maker Movement in mind demands a combination of practicality and creativity, and the best way to help educators and institutions to start the maker movement is to network and collaborate.  In this spirit, here we share a list of some brown bag challenges we have already tried out in English language classrooms. See list of materials here. For more info and directions open the links below on the post http://www.starfisheducation.com/2013/06/The-Brown-Bag-STEM-Challenges.html



Floating ball

Rocket cars

iPhone Speaker

Marshmallow Towers

Pom Pom Cannons

Paper Helicopters

Roller Coasters

Paperclip Sailboats

Building Windmills


Zip Lines

Solar Ovens

Lunar Landers



How to Make Your Robot_ Maker Movement Makes It into Language Teaching Classrooms

By | English, Sala de Aula | No Comments

It’s easy to understand the enthusiasm of many teachers when they hear about The Maker Movement, for its experiential aspect and how it engages people with a kind of learning that triggers emotions and connection.  Some months ago, I came across a great tutorial that called my attention because the activities proposed have students explore and then brings in the theory behind them, which make learning significant and authentic. However, any teacher committed to learning might consider any change carefully. Do we have class time? Is this activity going to help students learn? How are students going to react? How can I facilitate learning? The maker movement is relatively new in Brazil, and early adopters are the ones responsible for reflecting, opening the way, and helping change teaching in private and public schools. Last week, Ellen Cintra proposed a maker activity to her teen students and shares her insights below.

UntitledI have been an English teacher for the past 9 years, 4 of them at Casa Thomas Jefferson, and the the contact with different technologies, from paper to Ipads, have always made me think about how I could improve my classes. When I am preparing my classes for Casa and for Fundação, where I teach Portuguese to sophomore high schoolers, I keep on thinking “How can I make use of different technologies and tools to prepare relevant activities that  basically present the “gain-gain” side of the equation (challenging and engaging, efficient and not too long) and fit my schedule? How can education really make a difference in these students’ lives?” These questions are always on my mind and after different conversations with Dani Lyra, who led me into this maker world (where I’m still crawling…), I was able to realize that we can make our teaching more meaningful when we give students different opportunities to manipulate and produce knowledge, try, fail and succeed.

I have recently had a first hand experience with the maker movement when together with Dani Lyra and Carla Arena at the former´s house I witnessed kids building a robot from scratch.

I then thought we could try it at Casa after working with Unit 11, from the Teens 2 course. The connection was clear: we had just talked about a robot (Asimo) and students had worked on readings and had watched videos about him… and they loved it! Next step was to produce a paragraph in which they would give life to their imagination and create their own robot. I tried to make the writing about the robot a fun moment and we speculated and played around with ideas about what our robots could do. Next, after talking to Dani, I teased them about how nice it would be if they could really produce a robot and when I told them we would really go for it, they were enthusiastic and looked forward for the big day!

The preparation included selecting materials at home, doing some more specific shopping for the missing parts and making a robot on our own, so that we really understood the steps for building the robot. In class, a little before taking the students to the Resource Center, where the librarians and school staff also helped by monitoring and guiding students, we brainstormed what the robots would be able to “really” do with the materials we were going to use additionally students started to think about closed circuits and equilibrium. Next, we started by eliciting vocabulary (the names of the pieces we would put together) and then we checked pronunciation a little bit. The students spoke in English most of the time, especially when they needed to use the target vocabulary. First students checked if they had all the necessary parts and then they connected the batteries while Dani and I prepared the containers by making holes  which would later receive different pieces. After that, students used plastic clamps to tie the batteries and the motor into the container and that was followed by attaching the switch. In the following class we continued by having students try to close the circuits and then we could see some more critical thinking going on: they tried, failed, asked a more knowledgeable mate, tried again, got angry, tried something new until they understood what they were doing wrong and how to fix things, so that they worked. It was great to watch students persistence and progress, as well as using creative alternatives to make their robots work. They used the target language, and relied on their peers and teacher to assist them with the “little bit” they needed to move on. In the end, students used different materials to personalize their robots and used some parts of the writing they had produced before to talk about their robots abilities. Teacher Dani recorded the students´ robots description and later combined the recording and the pictures of the robots using the app ChatterPix. Students then played around joyfully and left the class in excitement. They had learned lots of things and I can assure you that their brains were releasing lots of dopamine!

This fun and challenging activity could also be used in different scenarios, as for example in my Portuguese classes to sophomore high schoolers. I could tease students to think about technology and how we human beings can manipulate materials to suit our needs until we got into talking about robots. Then, I would challenge students to try to build robots in groups of 4 (I would give them the kits with everything they needed) and would assist them as necessary. After that, they could play around a little and engage into “competitions” before we started exploring written fiction related to robots and their use. An interesting link would be having students relax a little in the dark and listen to me reading an interesting piece of the book “Frankenstein”, by Mary Shelley. Next, they could work in groups or individually and elaborate a new end to the narrative.  Later, we would work on having their robots “tell” their stories by using the website “Blabberize”, which connects voice recordings and pictures the same way the app does. This could be extended to a more interdisciplinary approach by having other areas work cooperatively to enrich students’ critical thinking and scientific background. History, Philosophy, Sociology or Physics teachers could engage by bringing in discussions about Isaac Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” and how circuits and energy distribution work; Geography and History teachers could talk about technological innovations and how they have changed history and the way humans socialize, produce and consume (food, equipments, etc); Biology teachers could have students think about alternative ways to reduce pollution by having robots perform certain roles and help in research.

It seems too much to be done… it really does. Nevertheless, once we give students the power to go after things, we reduce our workload and they actually produce and engage much more than if we just stood at the front of the class lecturing… I truly believe it is worth a try.

Brown Bag Challenges

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Photo 04-11-14 13 44 18 (1)

The Brown Bag STEAM Challenge-  Project Ideas for Engaging students 

This activity combines art, science, The English language and play. I’m not overselling it when I say it’s mesmerizing. Helena Galvão has been a maker since she was a little kid, and now that she has graduated in psychology, and has been a teacher at casa Thomas jefferson for a while, she advocates for the maker Movement in schools. We strongly believe that students need to be challenged and use the language they learn in authentic and meaningful situations to promote deep learning. Helena  was teaching her teens four group a unit in their coursebook that talks about invisible ink and had a great idea. Why not making the ink with them? She was set to organize this maker activity in her classroom for nineteen teenagers, but she did not stop there. We organized a science fair in the resource center, and the idea was to bring eight different challenges for students in brown bags; each bag had the name of the materials and what they were supposed to build with them, but no instructions on how to do it. Then, students had to write a how to manual using the language in the unit (going to) for a digital show and tell. They took photos of their inventions and recorded the tutorial using the app ChatterPix. It was just amazing to see how much language production and  interaction took place. For a better idea of this maker activity watch the video below.

My Robot Can Talk!

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The Maker Movement is relatively new here in Brazil, and I believe it has come to stay. Maker activities arouse curiosity and connect the mind and the body to highten the experience of learning. Curious students seem to have more energy, and they are more willing to participate and take risks. However, eighteen years as a full time English teacher has taught me a few things, and I do understand people when they say that our schedules are too tight, and that we do not have any class time to waste. Planning an activity with the maker movement in mind might take more time because it requires a combination of creativity and practicality, but the pay off is the time it saves as students are much more responsive, exercise creativity, and create a bond with the subject matter, classmates, teacher and institution.

In our school, we are modernizing our resource centers by making them more dynamic and enticing to students. Our idea is to have programs that teach about entrepreneurship and innovation, which are important aspects of the American culture and English language. And, also help teachers redesign their practices by offering them a learning space they can take students to and  that inspires creativity.

Last week, Ellen Cintra, a teacher at Casa Thomas Jefferson, was talking about robots as context to teach students the modal verb can. The Maker Movement is also about learning together, and that’s where all bi-national centers and English schools find opportunity to collaborate and make English teaching more meaningful, innovative, and relevant. Teachers can not settle for teaching only language because we have now the chance to work together and help students believe they can be makers who can create things to improve the world around them. Watch the video below to understand what happened in the resource center and see how engaged students were.


ACCESS Students and the Maker Movement

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I have been leaning a lot about the maker movement, and how we can use the concepts behind it to teach American cultural aspects and the English language in American spaces/English schools. So when I was invited to deliver an enhancement workshop for Access students at Casa Thomas Jefferson last week I was very excited. I understood it could be a great chance to try something new. The English Access Micro Scholarship Program (Access) provides a foundation of English language skills to 13-20 year-olds from an economically disadvantaged background through after-school classes and intensive sessions.  Access helps participants develop English skills that may lead to better jobs and educational prospects. Participants also gain the ability to compete for and participate in future exchange and study programs in the United States.

My role in the session was to have students experience a hands-on activity and engage in a task collaboratively.  I brought with me Makey Makey kits, we talked about Halloween and I asked them what the connection between pumpkins and Halloween is. I asked them if it would be possible to turn vegetables or fruits into musical instruments, and I noticed they were curious and engaged. I told them it was possible if they had the right tools, gave each group a laptop computer, a Makey makey kit, vegetables, and some time to collaborate. They participated eagerly, failed, tried again, and learned not only some of the concepts behind the technical part of the activity but also that they are stronger when they work together, and that making an effort to achieve a goal is worthwhile and very reassuring. These students spoke English as a tool to engage in collaborative learning and may be curious enough to learn more about circuitry or computer programming.


The Maker Movement in English Language Schools

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Can you describe an activity you really enjoyed at school?

I have been asking many people the very same question, and the answers share something in common. Can you guess what the question is?

  • My oldest daughter told me it was the day she built a feudal castle;
  • Antonio, the IT guy at school, told me about the day he built a functional mini hydropower plant with leds.
  • My husband told me about wood work projects.
  • I remember making ‘brigadeiros’ for a school party.

Coincidences? I do not think so… Human being are curious beings, and learn much better when genuinely engaged.  The maker movement inspires people to think like scientists and engineers, explore, tinker and collaborate to find solutions to local problems. Many schools in the USA already work with the STEAM model, but here in Brazil it is very new. It`s easy to get enthusiastic about the making in classrooms, but how to transfer all that to our educational system, how to organize great after school programs, and most important, how to let students explore and practice curiosity?

“I want us all to think about new and creative ways to engage young people in science and engineering, whether it’s science festivals, robotics competitions, fairs that encourage young people to create and build and invent—to be makers of things, not just consumers of things.” 
President Obama on June 17, 2014

Build a Maker Mindset with Makey Makey

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MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. With the kits, we can turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It’s a simple tool for beginners and experts to have loads of fun and begin experimenting. What about making music with bananas? What about conducting electricity with your hands? Jay Silver, MIT PhD and the co-inventor of Makey Makey, shows us how to hack everyday objects and have students practice curiosity and invention. Read more about Jay’s approach to education: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/trees-o…

We heard about Makey Makey and decided to use this amazing tool in one of our funshops.  The idea was to arise students’ curiosity, start building a maker mindset, and let people know we will have Makey Makey kits available for them to explore with  in school. We bought three kits, and we  got lots of help from Brasilia Fab Lab to get this funshop going for the first time. We share here everything we learned so that you too can run this amazing session in your institution and get the Maker Movement started.

We had tables set up in our common area, and any student could just hang out with us and play around with the Makey Makey kits. We had the funshop in the week before halloween, so we decorated the tables and used punkins as drum sets.

What you will need:

A table and a laptop computer for each Makey Makey kit.

We chose to work on the piano keyboard, and the drum sets, but there are many other options you could choose from right here.We downloaded the software beforehand so that we would not need to rely on wi-fi connection during the workshop.

Teachers to interact with the kids in English and show them how much fun Makey Makey is!

Practice a little with the kits before to get familiar, and be ready to tell participants how come the vegetables produce sound!

Students were VERY curious, and eager to learn more, which is a great way to get started with the Maker Movement, and engage students in different activities that start happening in different parts of school.



Get the maker Movement Started with Kids

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Bubble week is an event to get the Maker Movement started in your school or institution.

We  heard of this activitity in Manual do mundo, and we decided to divide the workshop in two sessions.

Students were invited to freely play with the bubbles using the toys and they got a flyer telling them what to bring for the second meeting. We had the activity in an open, common area in school where all students could easily see and interact. Monitors and school staff were ready to interact with the children in English. One of the monitors was handing out flyers and talking to kids and parents.

For the first meeting we prepared:


Bubble machine

A cut in half tire of plastic pool large enough to fit a hoop inside



For the second meeting,  we recorded a tutorial in which a teacher explains the science behind the mixture.

We had 4 stations

1 – One mentor helps kids do the bubble machine – You might have a handyman among your staff eager to help.

2- One mentor teaches the kids how to make he toys

3- One mentor helps the kids make the mixture and shows the questions

4- The librarian has the tutorial and shows it to students – he/she might record students’ summarizing the pieces of information to post on the school’s website.

bubble questions5 bubble questions3 bubble questions2 bubble questions1

Tips to help you get organized

Deliver each phase twice so that you reach Mondays/wednesdays and Tuesdays/Thursdays groups

Schedule the event for a time when you have lots of students waiting for class, or waiting for their parents

Make sure you choose a place where the floor is NOT SLIPPERY

For phase two, have 4 staff members involved

Have fun, and let us know if you need any help.


Movimento maker e a educação básica

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Em uma palestra, o brasileiro Paulo Blinkstein, que trabalha na universidade de Stanford,  fala sobre inovação e do que pensa do sistema educacional no Brasil.  Ele respondeu algumas perguntas depois da palestra que são relevantes para educadores interessados em mudar um pouco a maneira de ensinar, e fazer as ideias de educadores como Paulo Freire e Piaget mais presentes em suas salas de aula. O professor conta como acha importante que a escola seja motivadora e de como considera um clichê a fala de que a escola precisa preparar para o vestibular. Ele sugere que 20% do tempo das crianças na escola seja usado para incentivar a inovação e a criatividade e do impacto que isso teria na educação brasileira. Segundo o professor, a velocidade das coisas é tão grande que o Brasil precisa investir tanto na educação básica quanto na educação mais inovadora para não ficar muito mais atrasado ainda se comparados a outros países. Ouça o que o professor tem a dizer nessa breve entrevista abaixo.

Qual o diagnostico do Brasil em relação a inovação na educação?

Qual a necessidade de banda larga nas escolas?

Como aproximar temas de tecnologia e inovação da educação básica de jovens menos favorecidos?

Se o Brasil tem tantos problemas básicos, por que investir em inovação na educação?



Sharpen Presentational Skills

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Nowadays, information is everywhere, and learning is also a click away. With enormous amount of possibilities within anyone’s range, it’s high time  libraries redifined their roles and became lively, interesting, and colllaborative learning spaces. The public that comes to a resource center might be looking for an opportunity to learn different skills and socialize. In English schools, students come to have an experience; they come to learn how to communicate for fun, and for business. Modern libraries within English schools might offer students the chance to boost their digital skills, and offer them the chance to become competent users of the target language in different settings. If you are interested in running a workshop at your institution that aims at sharpening your audience’s presentation skill, this post might come in handy.

What we give you:

Lesson plan - varied multi media plan to wow your participants. Students will watch a catchy video on how to present like Steve Jobs, dive into interesting resources that will trigger lots of interaction, and plan their own presentatiopn using the tips explored throughout the lesson. Teachers guide

What you’ll need:

Invite your students via social media, posters, and formal invitation in their classrooms

Choose a time that you believe students will be able to come (before or after class)

A teacher to deliver the session

English speaking librarians to interact with participants

Ipads, computers, or participants own devices to connect to the web



The Marshmallow Challenge

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Casa Thomas Jefferson will offer an amazing makerspace to the community in our Asa Norte branch, and we will also offer students opportunities to participate in maker activities in all our branches. We are deeply commited to sharing with the teaching community in general our workshops, ideas, and easy step by step procedures.  That`s why everything will be posted online so that you too can start the maker movement in your own institution.


The Marshmallow Challenge

How to get organized: We learned about The Marshmallow Challenge from watching this TED Talk. In groups of four, students are given 18 minutes to build the tallest structure possible using 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, 1 yard of string, and a marshmallow. They do not need to use all the materials, but the structure needs to hold the entire marshmallow on top.

  • Think of the best time to hold the challenge in your school (when there are students around waiting for class, or waiting for their rides).
  • You’ll need  a teacher to deliver the instructions, and the staff at the library to interact with students in English.
  • Decide on the best place to hold the event.
  • Prepare posters to display around school prior the event and/or send e-mails to the families letting them know about the event.
  • Decide how many sessions you will have.
  • Check how many kits you’ll need.
  • Prepare the kits

We tested with a very creative group of teachers  and they did pretty well!


By doing this simple task, groups learn how to communicate, collaborate, and each individual might draw some conclusions about how he/she reacted to the challenge. This activity could be used also in the beginning of a term, or any time you need students to realize how important it is to work in groups to achieve learning goals. Feel free to ask us for help, we will be glad to share our experience with you to help you get started.

O que é o movimento do fazer?

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Quando me casei com um “maker”, um cara que conserta as coisas (não se conforma que algo esta quebrado e passa HOOOORas tentando consertar), cozinha, e inventa, eu não tinha a menor ideia do que era o ‘maker movement’. Alias, o movimento provavelmente ainda não existia, mas pessoas criativas e dispostas a colocar a mão na massa já estavam espalhadas por todos os lugares. O termo Do-It-Yourself é o prelúdio do que hoje é conhecido como Movimento Maker, e aqui no Brasil, apesar de ainda termos mão de obra barata, mais e mais pessoas arriscam e colocam a mão na massa. Sites que estimulam a curiosidade e a experimentação como Manual domundo, Criança na cozinhaInstructables e Pinterest estão atraindo mais e mais pessoas.

Mas o que é o movimento maker?

Para entender melhor o conceito, pare de ler um pouco e responda as seguintes perguntas:
Se você pudesse inventar qualquer coisa, o que você inventaria? 
Qual seria o processo, ou melhor, como você faria?


A maioria das pessoas provavelmente teria uma boa ideia. No entanto, tantos não saberiam como realizar o seu sonho, pois não foram motivadas a pensar no processo. Frequentemente, engenheiros e cientistas não pensam linearmente, mas exploram e experimentam até chegar a soluções criativas. As pessoas que participam do movimento acreditam que qualquer um pode ser um “maker” e inventar algo interessante. Acreditam também na importância  do experimentar, colaborar e de ser persistente, a fim de aprender com os erros e tentativas. O movimento maker é o aprender colaborativo e um estímulo à criatividade e à experimentação.


Na semana passada eu visitei a Maker faire em Nova Iorque e pude ver o entusiasmo de jovens, pais e educadores que acreditam no aprender fazendo. Foi muito bacana, por exemplo, conversar com o Mike e ouvi-lo falar cheio de entusiasmo sobre como aprendeu a imprimir em 3D um brinquedo para sua irmã.
Ver famílias construírem e programarem juntas, em um delicioso mergulho no conhecimento.


Conversar com um pai que feliz observava sua filha experimentar com conceitos de circuitos que ela só conhecia na teoria.


E conversar com designers que agora podem prototipar com custo baixo e criar em porcelana ou metal.


No jardim de infância, as crianças costumam aprender brincando, inventando e experimentando. Por que será que, no resto de sua vida escolar, os alunos devem aprender na teoria o que poderiam aprender na pratica? O movimento maker nas escolas, que está ganhando cada vez mais espaço nas escolas nos Estados Unidos,  resgata a experimentação na educação.  A Casa Thomas Jefferson traz esse importante aspecto da cultura americana para os nossos alunos e comunidade. Fique atento e siga o que esta acontecendo na nossa escola aqui.

We Learn by Making Stuff

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The maker movement has been growing and everyone hears an anecdote being told, reads an article, or sees a photo. I became curious and started reading about the movement and how these hands-on type of activities would benefit students by enhancing involvement and motivation to learn. Whether we teach children, teens, or adults, we can easily achieve our pedagogical goals by tapping into students’ needs. So, we teachers bring realia, videos, IPads, and other resources to engage students. All of that enriches the learning experience, but a curious educator should keep exploring. What if learning became less theoretical and more experiential? What if we had more activities in class in which kids participated joyfully and stayed excited about them long after they walked away with something they created? Some of the promises of the maker movement resonated with me, and last weekend, Carla Arena and I  ran a maker workshop with eight kids to see for ourselves what would happen. We found a very interesting tutorial by Glauco Paiva in Tinkerlabbr, and put all the stuff we needed together (most of the things was in our tool box, and we opened up broken toys for the motors).

When kids arrived, we were organizing the place, but they did not seem curious at all. They just played a bit and turned on the TV. When Bernardo, a kid who is extremely curious and into robotics, but does not seem to enjoy school so much,  arrived, he went by the other ones and came straight to us. He started opening up old toys to see what was inside and playing around with all the items we had displayed on the desk. What happened next was a great experience for all of us. Kids started gathering around the table to check things out. One of the girls screamed, ‘this is not for girls!’. The others replied, “yes it is!” Reactions varied a lot since some of the kids jumped straight into tinkering, others observed, but they all tried. These are the things that I noticed:

  • My lesson plan was not needed at all
  • Learning by tinkering is extremely self-driven and fun.
  • The video tutorial I had on the table was not used much because the kids were learning together.

Today, many students sit quietly listening to a teacher lecturing about  topics they have never experienced or been interested in, and a curious teacher might find ways to enrich his/her practice by having students touch things, learn together and explore.



Daniela Lyra

maker Being there with Dani and watching those kids collaborate, helping each other with no tutorial, no one teaching them, made me realize that, we, teachers are, in general, preachers. That´s why kids turn off. When they have a goal, when they are into discovery and hands-on activities they are engaged, they are ready for trial and error, they are learning and ask for help only when needed. Kids are totally self-driven. During our informal session, they made mistakes, they worked together, they corrected those mistakes they initially encountered. Some were faster, some slower, but everybody, in their own rhythm, got to the end, successfully accomplishing their main goal of making their $1.99 robot walk. Even though we know that, we are still pouring information in the hope that they will “learn”. Learning is related to action, not to passively listening to the teacher. Watching those kids interact to learn about electronic circuits to make their robots work was a wake-up call to review my own practices. Though I´ve been reviewing them for years, there´s still I lot I can learn and improve in my teaching. Tony Wagner, an expert in residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab, mentions the importance of developing our youngsters´ competencies towards innovation. More and more, we need to nurture our learners´ creativity, spark their imagination in an environment where failure is part of the process of learning and persistence leads to success. In fact, the intersection of curiosity, play, purpose and persistence can help our kids thrive, mastering new concepts that will help them deal with new situations, enhance their self-esteem, stimulate divergent and convergent thinking, and adhere to team work. In our wrap-up at the end of the day (we are teachers, after all!), after our kids had a “robot fight and race”, we asked them what they had learned. Bernardo, the junior robotics guru who helped the other kids, was considering possibilities to develop this kind of toy for kids in Africa. We had a lovely discussion with him about sources of energy which could be used to develop a robot. As for Caio, my 12-year old son, he said his main learning of the whole experience was design. Do I need to say anything else to convince you to consider a more experiential approach to your classroom?


Carla Arena

Making Personalized Games

By | Sala de Aula, Sem categoria | No Comments



Amazing new tools, apps, materials, and skills turn us all into makers. Making in the classroom promotes learning that originates from direct experience. Educators worldwide agree that cognitively engaged students learn faster and many times free of behavioral issues so common in the traditional school environment. To get people in the educational system to agree with educators like Piaget, Dewey, and Montesorri is easy, but the question that lingers is how to bring back experiential learning when we need to deal with standardized tests, teaching for the tests, and the decrease of play and time to do projects. The answers are out there, and the shift towards experiential leaning come back is easy to spot in social media and the news. Small steps, and effort to change what needs to be changed is our way out of brick and mortar dull classrooms. Mobile learning is an easy way to start, since there are great apps out there nowadays for teachers to take advantage and bring to their classrooms the kind of learning that involves engagement, design , and building.

From my experience, Tinytap, an app created by an Israeli startup, provides the path for educators to create engaging learning opportunities to help students not only develop content related knowledge but also get empowered to use their creativity to learn how to learn and share what they make online with a rich and growing community.

This platform is a pearl because learners can easily create and play fun, interactive games from their own pictures and videos for their peers. Students can also make quizzes and games for younger kids, and we all learn that there is no better way to learn something than by teaching it. There are hundreds of ways to play with TinyTap, here are a few ideas to get you started. If you are:

A librarian –  Convey your message, advertize your reading events, promote books in a fun and unique way through a game, a digital challenge, train staff, and more.

A Brand – Create a game to engage with your target audience, specially kids! Send trivia quizzes about interesting topics. Turn fun institutional videos intogames, etc.

An educator – Explore the app in class so that students use se their personal images and videos to learn content is a VERY meaningful way. Content producers (students) who make  personalized puzzles,  record a soundboard, tell interactive story.


  •  Create your content oriented learning object for yourself or share it with your learning community or a much wider  audience!
  • Teach a concept, for nothing helps us learn a content more than teaching it .


See some examples of what you can do for and with your students in an EFL language classroom below:

Body parts


Teens - Superlative trivia quizz

Zoo animals

Family members











Magnetism Mystery Bag Challenge

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Kbrown bag 2Kids love challenges. They NEED to have space to tinker, play around and fail to become resilient and motivated to learn.  I was reading a blog post about how to unleash children’s creativity and the brown bag challenge, and I decided to adapt it to teach my English language learners.  In many course books, we have topics like the wilderness, hot and cold, or surviving as a springboard to teach second conditional sentences. What if we had a different lead in to arouse curiosity and gear our class into a dynamic environment using some principles of magnetism?


Tell students that they are lost, and challenge them to invent something using some of the items in the bag to help them out. But, tell them that they will have to do it in groups, it’s NOT a competition, and that they will have only six minutes to play around. Monitor students, and give them some tips when they get stuck.

e.g. What would you really need if you got lost?

What would happen if you hanged the magnet?

What would you need if you wanted to make a compass?

brown bag 2

What is in the bag?


Craft sticks and/or tongue depressors

compass rose

Small ring (donut) magnet


Masking or electrical tape



Paper clips



Atuais velhos mantras e a sala de aula

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Em um artigo recente no jornal O Globo, o filósofo Edgar Morin fala sobre a educação no Brasil e como o sistema não deve ignorar a criatividade das crianças no processo de aprendizagem. Segundo ele, a informação está em todo lugar e o papel do professor precisa mudar. Os alunos devem buscá-la, e os professores devem questionar as ideias e ajudar os alunos a desenvolverem  o pensamento crítico. Ele também critica os modelos de ensino que segmentam as áreas do conhecimento, porque ao fazê-lo, nós dificultamos a compreensão do mundo. Para resolver os problemas do cotidiano, é preciso pensar de forma holística e compreender diferentes conteúdos de diversas áreas do conhecimento. No Brasil, sempre tivemos educadores progressistas que idealizaram um sistema educacional que envolvesse alunos e despertasse  a curiosidade. Paulo Freire, no seu livro Pedagogia do Oprimido,  falou sobre a necessidade de abordar conteúdos relevantes para os alunos . O aluno precisa saber questionar e  aplicar o conhecimento adquirido para resolver problemas da sua comunidade, interagir e expressar a sua visão.

Se olharmos para o nosso sistema educacional hoje em dia, vemos que temos um longo caminho a percorrer para transformar a sala de aula e criar espaços onde os alunos possam ser criativos e expostos a conteúdos de uma forma mais pratica e pessoal. Em uma TED Talk, Paulo Blinkstein  fala sobre o FabLab @ schoolproject e o movimento do fazer. Segundo ele,  a foto abaixo nos mostra como um iPhone seria se tivesse sido concebido pela maioria dos reformadores educacionais. Ele diz que precisamos escolher qual conteúdo ensinar se quisermos dar espaço para personalização e abordagens mais experimentais.

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Eu estava conversando com uma professora da rede pública de ensino  quando ela me disse algo muito relevante. Se olharmos para o nosso currículo hoje, podemos chegar à conclusão de que a maior parte do conteúdo deve ser ensinado, mas precisamos mudar a maneira que ensinamos.

Diversos educadores dizem que a escola ensina de uma maneira muito teórica e que não alcança os alunos. Precisamos abrir espaço para a inovação e o pensamento crítico, mas não podemos ensinar essas importantes habilidades nos moldes tradicionais.

Eu estava planejando uma aula de Português semana passada tentando imaginar como eu poderia torná-la mais relevante e prática. A lição que eu deveria ensinar trazia um texto que tinha muitas frases curtas em dois parágrafos diferentes. As perguntas que se seguiam tinham o objetivo de fazer com que os alunos percebessem a estrutura gramatical (todos os períodos eram simples), e qual era a intenção do autor quando escolheu aquela construção. A lição parecia interessante, mas eu precisava  envolver os alunos. Eu tinha cerca de 20 minutos de aula, e em vez de pedir que os alunos fizessem o exercício de análise sintática  em sala de aula, pedi para que me contassem um pouco sobre suas aulas na escola e como se sentiam. Pedi para que escrevessem em grupos textos personalizados usando a mesma estrutura gramatical  e usassem seus telefones para fazer vídeos sobre seus relatos. Os alunos se envolveram, participaram, falaram sobre suas vidas e como as coisas poderiam ser diferentes para eles na escola. O nosso  maior desafio  é usar as ideias de educadores progressistas para dar aulas que são centradas nos alunos e promovem discussões relevantes para a nossa sociedade.


photo credit: Môsieur J. [version 9.1] via photopin cc

Old Mantras

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In a recent article in O Globo, the philosopher Edgar Morin talks about education in Brazil and how the system should not ignore children`s creativity in the learning process. According to him,  information is everywhere and teachers’ roles need to change. Learners should look for the information themselves, and teachers should question the ideas and help learners develop critical thinking. He also criticizes teaching models that separate areas of knowledge  because by doing so, we hinder students` comprehension of the world. To tackle real everyday problems one needs to think holistically and grasp different content from different areas of knowledge. In Brazil, we have had progressive educators who could envision a school that involved learners and aroused curiosity. Paulo Freire, was in favor of experiential learning and inspired many educators worldwide with his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Another educator who had lots to share on this topic was Anísio Teixeira, and we still have schools in Brazil that follow his principles. However, f we look at our educational system in general nowadays, we see that we have a long way to go if we want experiential learning to become mainstream. In a TED talk, Paulo Blinkstein expands on the FabLab@schoolproject. To ilustrate his idea, and he shows a photo that  represents what an iPhone would look like if it had been designed by most educational reformers. He argues that we need to choose what to give up in terms of content if we are to make room for personalization and experiential approaches.

Screen Shot 2014-08-24 at 8.54.07 PM I was talking to a teacher in a public school here in Brasilia, and she made a very relevant point.No matter how critical we may be of the education given at Brazilian schools, if we look at our curriculum today, we might come to the conclusion that most of its content should be there anyways. However, students need to perceive the relevance of this content, and we need to change the way we deliver classes. We need to make room for innovation and critical thinking, and we can not teach these important skills in the traditional environments.

I was planning a Portuguese class last week trying to imagine how I could make it more interesting and hands on. The lesson I was supposed to teach dealt with a text that had many short sentences in two different paragraphs. The questions that followed were designed to make students inductively notice the grammar structure (all sentences in those paragraphs had only one verb), and what was the writer`s intention when he chose that construction. The lesson looked interesting, but I needed to add a hands-on activity to engage my learners. I had about 20 minutes of class time, and instead of asking students to make the controlled manipulative grammar exercise that followed in class, I asked them to tell me a bit about their classes at school and how they felt. I asked them to use the same structure to write short texts that depicted their reality and, in groups, share their work, and make a short video using their phones. The pay off was that students engaged and participated in class a lot and were ready to talk about their lives and how things could be different for them. There is room for personalization and creativity, so the biggest challenge we face  is how we  use  great ideas from progressive educators to design classes that are student centered and have these principles become mainstream.

photo credit: Môsieur J. [version 9.1] via photopin cc

Itching to Learn

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If  someone asks you to talk about a great class you had when you were a kid, what would you say? When I read this question on a blog post today, I realized that everything that I could remember involved making, getting my hands dirty, and collaborating with peers. So, why don’t we have classes that are more experiential and trigger deeper learning?  It is crucial our children realize that what they learn can be put into practice, and they can use the content they deal with in class to invent and transform the world around them. What separates people who simply have an idea from those who make their dreams come true is the ability to come up with creative ideas. Whether using technology or not, students should feel they will put what they learn into practice and become  eager to learn the content. One way of allowing students to get creative has to do with programming for three main reasons. First, its important children become active creators of technology, not just users. Second, learning programming nowadays is free, easy and fun for kids at many different ages. Third, the child starts to believe he/she too can have dreams and make them come true. One of the apps that is worth exploring is called Scratch. It is a a free programming language developed by the MIT Media Lab that allows students to create their own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art. It comes with the special bonus of involving kids to learn important mathematical and computational skills. There are tutorials, and lots of project ideas out there to get inspired from. Here is the official site for more on Scratch in case you decide to give it a try.

Podemos aprender qualquer coisa

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Eu sempre tive a sensação de que podemos aprender qualquer coisa. Quando somos muito jovens, podemos aprender diversos idiomas ao mesmo tempo. Se praticarmos bastante, podemos desenvolver habilidades que podem ser muito úteis para a nossa sociedade e comunidade. Então, por que não começar a promover espaços de aprendizagem que despertem a curiosidade e motivem as pessoas a buscar soluções para os muitos problemas que o nosso mundo enfrenta hoje? Eu estava assistindo um TED Talk do Paulo Blikstein e ele levanta uma questão interessante:

Eu me pergunto o que aconteceria se em vez de acordar todos os dias para ir para a escola para aprender uma outra fórmula, as crianças fossem à escola para inventar algo novo, todos os dias uma nova invenção, uma nova idéia. E eu me pergunto o que aconteceria com o país que fizesse isso primeiro.

Existem muitos educadores que querem fazer a diferença e inovar. Então, é o momento perfeito para unir esforços, estabelecer parcerias para garantir que os nossos filhos  sejam motivados a pensar de forma diferente e se tornem pessoas  criativas capazes de enfrentar os desafios do mundo moderno.

You Can Learn Anything

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I`ve always had the feeling that we could learn anything. When we are very young, we can learn as many languages as we are exposed to. If we practice enough we can develop skills that might be extremelly useful to our society and community. So, why don`t we start promoting learning spaces that trigger curiosity and motivate people to come to inspiring solutions to the too many problems that our world face today? I was watching a TED Talk by Paulo Blikstein and something he says makes us think:

I wonder what would happen if instead of waking up everyday and going to school to learn another formula, kids would  go to school to invent something new, everyday a new invention, a new idea? And I wonder what would happen with the country that would do it first.

It rests upon the shoulder of our kids to solve the problems that our world face today, and there are many educators willing to make a difference and innovate. So, it is the perfect time to join efforts, establish partnerships to guarantee that our children go to school and get inspired and empowered to think differently and become very creative people to face the challenges of a fast-changing world.

Feira Maker

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Nova Iorque vai sediar no dia 20 e 21 de setembro o Maker Faire. Esta feira é um ótimo lugar para ir com sua família e amigos e celebrar este maravilhoso festival da invenção, da criatividade e ver em primeira mão o que o movimento do fazer realmente significa.

O Maker Faire é um lugar onde fabricantes, entusiastas da tecnologia, artesãos, educadores, amadores, engenheiros, clubes de ciência, autores, artistas, estudantes e expositores comerciais se juntam para compartilhar o que eles podem fazer e aprender. A parte mais fascinante de tudo é que o evento oferece às pessoas a oportunidade de ver-se como mais do que consumidores; os projetos apresentados neste tipo de evento nos fazem acreditar que podemos ser todos inventores, todos nós podemos ser produtivos e criativos e nosso mundo é o resultado das nossas açōes. No site podemos conhecer os ‘makers’ ​​e ter uma noção do que esperar, dar uma olhada no programa , se organizar para o evento navegando por tópicos, baixar o aplicativo, e muito mais.

Maker Faire

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New York will host on September 20th and 21st the Maker Faire, which is  is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth. It`s a great place to go with your family and friends to celebrate this wonderful festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and experience first hand the core of  the Maker movement.


The Maker Faire is a place where manufacturers, technology enthusiasts, crafters, educators, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students and commercial exhibitors gather to share what they can do and learn. The most fascinating part  is that this event gives people the opportunity to see themselves as more than consumers; the projects  make us believe that we can all be makers, we can all be productive and creative, and our world is what we make of  it. On the site we can meet the makers and get a sense of what to expect, take a look at the program and schedule, get organized for the event by browsing by topics, download the app, and much more.

Happy making!

Aprendendo a programar

By | American Spaces, Português, Programação | No Comments

Você já foi surpreendido pela rapidez com que uma criança aprende como usar um tablet ou celular? No vídeo acima, uma menina muito jovem, parece já ter compreendido muito. O que ela faz tão bem ilustra o que Seymour Papert e Paulo Freire dizem quando eles mencionam a importância de libertar o potencial de aprendizagem latente dos alunos ao proporcionar  ambientes onde suas paixões e interesses prosperem. As verdadeiras razões para defender o uso de computadores nas escolas não são tecnocêntricas. Na verdade, as verdadeiras razões são realmente práticas. Meu filho, por exemplo, adorava o jogo Minecraft, e ele aprendeu a fazer coisas maravilhosas dentro do jogo que tinham valor para a sua comunidade. Ele aprendeu a gravar sua tela, editar, e fazer um blog colaborativo para compartilhar suas idéias. Sua construção do conhecimento aconteceu muito rapidamente e ele aprendeu sozinho, publicou e compartilhou seu conteúdo. Eu simplesmente não vejo o mesmo acontecendo quando se trata da escola. Outra coisa a considerar é que ele também aprendeu sobre a mineração, química e até mesmo física. Será que estamos às vezes privando os alunos da diversão por trás da aprendizagem quando lhes pedimos para se sentar em silêncio e ouvir? Será que eles realmente internalizam o conteudo ou ficam se perguntando quando eles vao usar toda aquela informacao? Eu estava contando a um amigo sobre escolas nos EUA, Austrália e Inglaterra que ensinam as crianças a programar, e ela me fez a seguinte pergunta:

Será que todas as crianças se tornam programadores?

Para mim, aprender a programar é aprender a pensar de uma maneira nova e comecar a aprender como controlar o computador. Hoje em dia, a codificação é para todos, e ensina a criatividade, cooperação e persistência. Se você se interessa por esse assunto e gostaria de explorer alguns aplicativos feitos para crianças e jovens, explore a imagem abaixo.

Why Learn Coding?

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Have you ever been amazed by how well a young child can grasp how to use a tablet or phone? In the video above, a very young girl seems to have grasped a lot already. What she does so well at such a young age shows what Seymour Papert and Paulo Freire say when they mention the importance of unleashing the latent learning potential of students by providing environments in which their passions and interests thrive. The true  reasons for advocating the use of computers in schools are not technocentric. Actually, the reasons that resonate with me are truly practical. Take my kid for instance, he was totally into Minecraft, and he learned how to make wonderful things within the game that were valuable for his community. He learned how to record his screen, edit, and put a blog together to share his ideas. His construction of knowledge  happened really well and he built, made, and publicly shared his content. I simply do not see the same happening when it comes to school. Another thing to consider is that David also learned about mining, chemistry and even physics. Are we sometimes depriving students of the fun behind learning when we ask them to sit down quietly and listen? Do they actually learn or sit there quietly wondering what they need all the information for? I was telling a friend about schools in the US, Australia, and England teaching kids how to code, and she asked me the following question:


Do all the kids become programmers?

For me, learning to code is learning to think in a new way; It`s also helping kids visualize that they can learn how to control the computer by speaking its language. Nowadays, coding is for everyone, and it teaches creativity, cooperation and persistence. For some learning coding apps and the pleasure of unleashing the inner will of kids to learn, click on the image below.


On Maker Movement and Motivation

By | English, Maker Movement, Sem categoria | 15 Comments
Educators know that students perform better when they are motivated and cognitively engaged. We also know that we should avoid lecturing, and should motivate our learners to be active participants in the learning process. The big question that poses on many of us, delivering classes on daily basis, is how we can plan lessons that will connect our students to content that they might not have experienced, never been interested in, or don`t perceive as something useful in their lives.
In the book ‘The Art of Changing the Brain’ James E. Zull argues that educators can use knowledge about functions of the brain to enhance pedagogical techniques e.g., increasing reception of information by enhancing the sensory aspects of teaching materials; taking advantage of integrative mechanisms by allowing time for reflection; maximizing the adaptive functions of the brain by challenging students to be creative; using action areas of the brain by providing activities to confirm and extend learning. Teachers need to recognize that motivational-emotional systems of the brain modulate cognitive functions and that attempts to force students to learn in ways that violate brain mechanisms are likely to be counterproductive.

Paulo Blikstein, in his article - Digital Fabrication and Making in Education says that there are calls everywhere for educational approaches that foster creativity and inventiveness, and that the ideas behind the maker movement are at least a century old. Digital fabrication and “making” are based on three theoretical and pedagogical pillars: experiential education, constructionism, and critical pedagogy.  Paulo Freire criticized school’s “banking education” approach and the decontextualization of curriculum. So, students’ projects should be  connected with meaningful problems at a personal or community level. Seymour Papert, who worked with Jean Piaget for many years, shares Paulo Freire’s enthusiasm for unleashing the  learning potential of students by providing environments in which their passions and interests thrive. Papert pioneered the use of digital technologies in education, and some of his motivations are very similar to Freire’s. Papert’s Constructionism builds upon Piaget’s Constructivism and claims that the construction of knowledge happens very well when students build, make, and publicly share objects.

Schools that create environments where students are challenged and supported to achieve a goal they value might become a place where students feel the need to go to. Educators who work in institutions that embrace the maker movement might find the task of planning effective classes on daily basis an easier one just because  students may be genuinely interested and eager to learn.


Entendendo o Movimento Maker

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O Movimento Maker não é nada novo. Na verdade, a cultura do DIY (Do-it-Yourself)/”faça você mesmo”  já existe há muitas décadas. Vários educadores e estudiosos vêm, inclusive, falando da importância do fazer, do experimentar, errar e acertar para o aprendizado. Mais recentemente, a neurosciência, aproximando-se cada vez mais da educação, também tem mostrado resultados por meio de estudos do cérebro o quão importante é para a retenção na memória que nossos alunos tenham uma experiência sensorial, prática, com experiências, co-construindo conhecimento.

Esse conceito de fazedores tem tido cada vez mais repercussão nos Estados Unidos e mundo afora por meio de espaços makers que proporcionam o aprendizado em conjunto em um ambiente de criação com diversos tipos de máquinas, impressoras 3D e objetos para montagem e experimentação. É também no movimento Maker que o sistema educacional tem vislumbrado a possibilidade de desenvolver nas crianças o interesse pelas ciências, matemática, engenharia e as artes, criando, brincando, e trabalhando em projetos de eletrônica, audiovisual, programação, e artes.

No Brasil, a cultura de fazedores começa a despontar em grandes centros com espaços para criação e prototipagem,  como o

  • Rede Fab Labum programa educacional do Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) do MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology – e cada um dos labs se caracteriza como uma plataforma de prototipagem de ideias visando a inovação e invenção e proporcionando estímulo para o empreendedorismo local. É também uma plataforma para a aprendizagem: um lugar para jogar, criar, aprender, orientar e inventar.
  • Garagem Fab Lab, um laboratório de fabricação digital,
  • Pedro Terra Lab, um laboratório de manufatura que explora novas possibilidades em Fabricação Digital e Open Source Hardware.
  • Colégio Liessin, uma escola no Rio de Janeiro que transformou um espaço em laboratório para o desenvolvimento de projetos
  • Colégio Bandeirantes, uma escola em Sâo Paulo que transformou a sala antes usada para aulas de informática no Hub, nome do salão que pode ser usado por qualquer professor, para qualquer projeto. Os antigos computadores deram lugar a laptops em mesas móveis e a bancadas com materiais de costura, tintas, madeira, papéis. 

Se você tem interesse nesse movimento, o primeiro passo é começar a explorar o que vem sendo feito no Brasil e no mundo para entender as possibilidades e como você se insere no processo.